Khailee Ng wanted name brand clothes. So, as a suburban teenager in Malaysia, he shoplifted.
He could have continued with his criminal life, he said, but took a different route. Ng started to build web pages because it was a better way to make money, he told a crowd at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, California, this week.
“It’s depressing when your only natural talent is shoplifting,” he said.
More than 4,000 developers from all over the world have gathered at the conference to hear about Facebook’s newest technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
But the social networking giant also paid homage to the work of international developers and entrepreneurs.
In his keynote address Tuesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said 80 percent of developers building apps on Facebook are international. To that end, the company is hosting meetings in more than 40 cities worldwide for watching the conference.
One advantage entrepreneurs in developing countries have is that the existing industries are not mature, said Peng Zhang, founder and president of GeekPark, an incubator and media company in China. Of the startups in China worth more than $1 billion, two-thirds are focused on improving traditional industries, he said.
“There are huge gaps,” he said.
A Malaysian journey
Ng described his journey from suburban teen shoplifter to web developer, to founder of two companies – a news site and an e-commerce firm – which he sold. He bought a ticket to Silicon Valley to find out more about the tech industry.
Now Ng is a managing partner at 500 Startups, an investment and incubator firm that has invested in more than 1,800 companies worldwide.
Beyond telling his personal story, Ng said there are key steps to making tech entrepreneurship more accessible for people worldwide. One is investing in local entrepreneurs building businesses who don’t necessarily match the pattern of the Silicon Valley startup founder.
“If our tunnel vision only goes for the pedigree path, we will not be able to complete the entire spectrum of human potential,” he said.
Testing ideas in Peru
Gary Urteaga, a Peruvian entrepreneur, told his own story of trying and testing company ideas. Inspired by the success of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, the Chinese online commerce firm, Urteaga co-founded Cinepapaya, a way for people to buy movie tickets and find out about movie showings. It was bought late last year by Fandango.
Now Urteaga is the vice president of business development at Fandango Latam and an investor. He says the next opportunity is in solving problems people have worldwide.
“If we develop and solve the problems of security, education, health and water, then we can create the next billion-dollar companies,” he said.